Sunday, January 31, 2010

16. Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham

Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 263
Ages: 8+
Finished: Jan. 30, 2010
First Published: Jan. 7, 2010
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Mama pulled a chicken egg from behind the azalea bush in our front yard and narrowed her eyes.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Penguin Young Readers Group.

Reason for Reading: I love books set in 1930s Southern USA.

Summary: Ludelphia Bennett is ten years old, her family is part of a sharecropping community. Ludelphia wears a patch over one eye as she accidentally went blind in it when a tiny sliver of wood flew into it when she was younger. She has a passion for quilting and is working on a special quilt now for her Mama that will tell Ludelphia's story to her. Mama is ill with a terrible cough and large with a baby on the way but when Mama goes into labour early and the baby is born healthy after 3 previous stillborn, Mama's health turns worse. She can hardly breathe and now she's coughing up blood. Ludelphia decides she must do more for Mama and embarks on a 40 mile journey to get the nearest doctor and medicine to save Mama's life. It's a dangerous journey for one-eyed, ten year old Ludelphia, who has never been out of Gee's Bend, and never seen a white person before but she takes her quilting with her to keep her hands busy and on the way comes across scraps of cloth to add to the quilt and her story.

Comments: This is a sweet, touching story. I fell in love with Ludelphia from the first page. She is a feisty girl, full of questions, not one to accept an answer without fully understanding and agreeing with it. She has a fine heart, loving all those around her and giving all the benefit of the doubt, she has a way with animals and is the only one who can get along with the stubborn mule they own. A very enjoyable character to read about.

The book takes the reader inside the daily life of a struggling sharecropper family during the depression. How the small rows of houses form a community and everyone looks after each other. They share the good times and they weather the strife and hardship together. I read this book quickly and really enjoyed it. It is a heart touching story and one roots for Ludelphia as she works her way through each challenge ultimately not only to save Mama but to save Gee's Bend itself. The story presented here is fictional but the author has woven a real life event from Gee's Bend's history into the novel.

The only thing that I felt book needed was an illustration at the end of Ludelphia's finished quilt. It's making is so integral to the book's plot, I felt a bit let down not being able to see the finished product and search within it for some of the pieces of cloth she found along the way.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hiccups for Elephant - Hello Reader!

Hiccups for Elephant by James Preller. Illustrated by Hans Wilhelm (Canada) - (US)
Hello Reader! Level 2

Finished: Jan. 27, 2010
First Published: 1994
Genre: children, easy reader
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

It was naptime.

Acquired: Bought and own a copy.

Reason for Reading: My son read aloud to me. I chose this book because I wanted something he could read in one sitting this day.

Comments: Elephant has the hiccups and his friends each tell him a sure fire way to get rid of them. He tries each way and none of them work until Mouse's suggestion. But with the hiccups gone, the book ends with a surprise twist. Honestly, I didn't expect much from this book but was pleasantly surprised with the fun time we had reading it. At this reading level, the book is well written, engaging and funny. Ds particularly found one scene hilarious and he had me read it in unison with him three times before we continued on with the story. The ending is funny and I recommend it to beginning readers.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Father Bear Comes Home

Father Bear Comes Home by Else Holmelund Minarik. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak (Canada) - (US)
An I CAN READ Book, Little Bear series, book 2

Pages: 62
Ages: 5+
Finished: Jan. 26, 2010
First Published: 1959
Genre: children, easy reader
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

"Little Bear," said Mother Bear, "can you be my fisherman?"

Acquired: Bought and own a copy.

Reason for Reading: My son read aloud to me.

Comments: As per any Little Bear book this is divided into four chapters each containing a stand alone story and yet they all flow together nicely. In the first story. Owl and Little Bear catch a fish for dinner then sit on a big log and pretend they are out on the ocean catching large and unusual fish until Mother finally comes looking for them and her fish. In the second story, Father Bear comes home but Little Bear imagines what if he brought home a mermaid and then as he meets each of his friends they follow along each expecting to meet the mermaid Father has brought home. In the third story Father Bear is quietly reading his paper and Little Bear has the hiccups, all his friends have ideas how to get rid of them but they don't work, then Father Bear roars asking what all the noise is about. Finally, the book comes full circle as Father, Mother and Little Bear go down to the river for a picnic and Little Bear and his friends wonder if there is a mermaid in the river and imagine what she would be like.

An enchanting book in the series, wonderful art by Sendak. My son is very familiar with these characters from the cartoon and has read a couple of the books now and continues to enjoy reading the stories, which are just at the perfect level for his reading abilities at the moment. There are occasional full pages of text but still plenty of half pages of text shared with a picture. A classic! 5/5

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

14. The Silver Anklet by Mahtab Narsimhan

The Silver Anklet by Mahtab Narsimhan (Canada) - (US)
Tara Trilogy, Book Two

Pages: 263
Ages: 10+
Finished: Jan. 26, 2010
First Published: Dec. 12, 2009
Genre: YA, fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

The patch of sunlight at the edge of the forest had an odd look; dirty yellow and striped.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher, through the author.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Summary: Tara and her brother, Suraj, along with his friend, have gone to the local fair. There they befriend the Ferris wheel operator, an overweight yet very friendly boy and a performer who can dislocate all his joints to fit inside small containers along with his little sister helper, Sadia. While there, a scream rips through the fairgrounds and the girl, a fair person who can see as day in the night, who was looking after Sadia screams that Sadia was taken from her by a hyena into the jungle. Tara herself had earlier thought she had seen a hyena but shrugged it off as a trick of the sun as hyenas do not live in these parts. Men quickly start organizing a search party when Tara realizes that her brother and his friend are missing too and when a scrap of his shirt is found on a bush they know he was taken too. Thus the story is set up as Tara and her new found friends, along with a familiar face from book one take matters into their own hands and set off into the jungle to find the missing children only to find out that it is all a carefully orchestrated plan to lure Tara herself into the clutches of her evil nemesis, Zarku. Only this time her brother's life may be the sacrifice to rid the world of this evil once and for all.

Comments: The second book in this trilogy jumps right into the action and does not let go until the very end. A very fast-paced plot-driven novel that kept me reading well into the night. The book is not quite so dark as the first in the series but is, even so, still dark with death and imagery. After the brief beginning in the fairgrounds, the entire story takes place within the jungle which serves to add a heavy, broody, stifling atmosphere throughout as the teens deal with the heat and humidity, mosquitoes and thirst. The plot itself is what I call the "race against time" theme where the characters set off to save someone and event after event happens until the final climax. Thus, there is not a lot of character development in the new characters introduced in this book. The heavy set boy and the night seeing girl were the most fully realized and I developed feelings for them. On the other hand the boy who's sister was taken plays a more important role in the story, yet he felt flat to me and I didn't connect with him. But otherwise, I really enjoyed the band of teens and the various personalities make for great dynamics within the group.

Tara, herself, is given the most powerful characteristics. Along with how we've come to know her from book one, she is a strong girl, with family loyalty and honour high in her values along with responsibility, fairness and a willingness to believe in others. Tara is faced with many dilemnas such as choosing between: the one or the many, a life of evil or death and sacrificing herself or losing time by going for help. Choosing the right thing is not easy nor is it always obvious.

One can't help but write about a sequel and not compare it to the first and here I found that while "The Third Eye" was steeped in Hindu mythology, this book does not follow through with that though it is still present, just in a smaller degree. There is no mistaking though that the story takes place within a Hindu society as the culture is ever present throughout and this is one of the exciting things about this series, making it so different from the usual YA fantasy fare being written at the moment. There is even a glossary at the back for all the Hindi words used in the book. I wonder if I can get my sister to start calling me Didi?

The cover is also quite intriguing. I think it reflects the ethnic flavour of the story well and the picture reminds me of a simple henna drawing. While being the second in a series the story can hold up on its own. References are made to events in the first book but the story here is complete within itself having a beginning and an ending. I always appreciate when authors can make the second book of a trilogy a complete story of its own while continuing to be a part of the whole (no cliffhangers please!). Ms. Narsimhan does this very well by bringing this story to a conclusion and then giving readers a taste by setting up the direction the next book will take. The last few lines of the book left me with a gleeful chuckle and shiver as I look forward to the final 'showdown' in the last book.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday: Books in the Mail

Quiet mailbox last week but some oh, so fabulous books in the one parcel of review copies I received plus I got a mooch that's been on my mooch list for ages.

Review Copies from Penguin Group (Canada)

Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille-the tiara-toting, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town-a woman trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. But when Camille is hit by a truck and killed, CeeCee is left to fend for herself. To the rescue comes her previously unknown great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell.

In her vintage Packard convertible, Tootie whisks CeeCee away to Savannah's perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity, a world that seems to be run entirely by women. From the exotic Miz Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapons, to Tootie's all-knowing housekeeper, Oletta Jones, to Violene Hobbs, who entertains a local police officer in her canary-yellow peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer. (US) - (Canada)

A six-year-old boy in the British immigrant community of Whitechapel believes he has discovered a unicorn for sale at the market. Though it looks to most people like a white goat with a bump on its head, young Joe is certain it will make the dreams of his friends and neighbors come true—a reunion with his father in Africa, a steam press for a tailor shop, a ring for a girlfriend. Others may be skeptical of the unicorn’s magic, but with enough effort, Joe believes he can make it all real. (US) - (Canada)

When, on the spur of the moment, Norman Huntley and his friend Henry invent an eighty-three-year-old woman called Miss Hargreaves, they are inspired to post a letter to their new fictional friend. It is only meant to be a silly, harmless game—until Miss Hargreaves arrives on their doorstep. She is, to Norman’s utter disbelief, exactly as he had imagined her: enchanting, eccentric, and endlessly astounding. He hadn’t imagined, however, how much havoc an imaginary octogenarian could wreak on his sleepy Buckinghamshire hometown. (US) - (Canada)


Why do the storks no longer come to the little Dutch fishing village of Shora to nest? It was Lina, one of the six schoolchildren who first asked the question, and she set the others to wondering. And sometimes when you begin to wonder, you begin to make things happen. So the children set out to bring the storks back to Shora. The force of their vision put the whole village to work until at last the dream began to come true. (US) - (Canada)

13. The Last Safe House: A Story of the Underground Railroad

The Last Safe House: A Story of the Underground Railroad by Barbara Greenwood. Illustrated by Heather Collins (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 118
Ages: 8+
Finished: Jan. 22, 2010
First Published: 1998
Genre: children, historical fiction, non-fiction
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

This is the story of two families who meet in June of 1856.

Acquired: We bought and own this book.

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my son as part of our history studies.

Summary: The story of a slave mother and her two children who escape from a southern plantation to St. Catharines, Canada via the Underground Railroad. The family is split up and the little girl, Eliza, is the first to arrive across the border at the Reids' house and the story concentrates on her and the youngest Reid girl as they spend time together. From Eliza's point of view we see the weight of slavery lift and are told about her past life through flashbacks. From Johanna Reid we see at first jealousy at this girl who is so eager to please, then understanding of what slavery really is. The two girls become friends and Johanna soon comes to realize that even in a 'free' county there are some two-faced people who treat the blacks in town differently. The plot becomes more exciting as slave catchers come on the scene and through different ways the brother and mother finally make it to safety.

Comments: This book is set up exactly like Greenwood & Collins' Pioneer series of books. Between each chapter of the fictional story there is a non-fiction section which digs deeper into the subjects discussed. These sections often refer to the characters in the story and seamlessly join together. Each of these sections also includes an activity though they are less crafty than in previous books by this team. Here we have a few crafts, baking, singing, and storytelling. This is the first time I've read this title and I enjoyed even more than The Pioneer Story. The characters are real and we are shown the story from many different view points: the runaway slaves, the American Underground Railroad conductors, the Canadian freedom helpers, Canadian women and children with racist attitudes, we even see why the slave catchers would cross into Canada and try to take slaves back when they had no rights on this side of the border. Heather Collins' black and white drawings are very detailed and informative. An excellent book that takes you from the slave on the plantation, to the fugitive on the run, and finally to the free black in the city, working and sending their children to school.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Contest: Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

I just finished reading this book and am fortunate enough to have received a second ARC which I will be passing on to the lucky winner of this contest. You can read my review here.

Contest will run until Feb. 5, with the winner randomly chosen and announced on Feb. 6. This contest is open to US and Canada only. Sorry, but International postage is too expensive for me.

To enter:

Please try to leave all your responses in one comment.

1) You must be a follower (over in the right bar) and let me know you are in your comment.

2) Leave your email address (if it is not already in your profile.)

3) +2 Tweet or blog (no sidebars) about this contest and leave me the link.

4) +1 If you could only see one colour and its various hues, while everything else appeared grey, what colour would you choose? (for example if you choose yellow you would be able to see all pure yellows plus when you looked at green, you would see the yellow hues only in yellow based greens)

Here is the publisher's summary:

As long as anyone can remember, society has been ruled by a Colortocracy. From the underground feedpipes that keep the municipal park green to the healing hues viewed to cure illness to a social hierarchy based upon one's limited color perception, society is dominated by color. In this world, you are what you can see.

Young Eddie Russett has no ambition to be anything other than a loyal drone of the Collective. With his better-than-average red perception, he could well marry Constance Oxblood and inherit the string works; he may even have enough red perception to make prefect.

For Eddie, life looks colorful. Life looks good.

But everything changes when he moves with his father, a respected swatchman, to East Carmine. There, he falls in love with a Grey named Jane who opens his eyes to the painful truth behind his seemingly perfect, rigidly controlled society.

Curiosity--a dangerous trait to display in a society that demands total conformity--gets the better of Eddie, who beings to wonder:
Why are there not enough spoons to go around?
Why is everything--and everyone--barcoded?
What happened to all the people who never returned from High Saffron?
And why, when you begin to question the world around you, do black-and-white certainties reduce themselves to shades of grey?

Part satire, part romance, part revolutionary thriller, this is the new world from the creative and comic genius of Jasper Fforde.

12. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron by Jasper Fforde (Canada) - (US)
Shades of Grey, Book 1

Pages: 389
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jan. 23, 2010
First Published: Dec. 29, 2009
Genre: fantasy, dystopian, humour
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

It began with my father's not wanting to see the Last Rabbit, and ended up with my being eaten by a carnivorous plant.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Penguin Canada.

Reason for Reading: I haven't read Jasper Fforde before. I really want to but just never find the time to start his Thursday Next series so I jumped at the chance to get in at the beginning with a new series.

Summary: I don't really feel capable of doing this justice but I'll make an attempt. This is a satirical dystopian novel. Set 500 years in the future after Something Happened, this new world is ruled by a Colortocracy. People are born being able to see only one colour or perhaps a mixture of primary colours thus making greens, oranges, etc. Those at the top of the class system are Purples and those at the bottom are Greys, the working class who are colourless. Increasing one's family's colour heritage is of utmost importance and marriages are arranged to produce children who will climb further up the class system. It is here we find Eddie Russet, half promised to marry into the Oxblood family, who finds himself wearing a humility badge, sent to the Outer Fringes, a town called East Carmine, to conduct a chair census supposedly because of a prank he pulled but in reality because he asks too many questions and shows too much curiosity, a dangerous quality in this society. But it is in East Carmine that he realizes the banality of the heavily rule dependent government and the oppressiveness that is wrought upon society. He meets Jane, a Grey revolutionary, who he loves at first sight and while her ideas seem fanatical at first, the more he experiences the more he starts to agree with her.

Comments: This was a fabulous book. Fforde has created an utterly unique and fascinating dystopian society that is believable but is full of satirical comments that reflect upon our own society that one can take the story seriously and with tongue in cheek at the same time. I became immersed in this world from the first page, and while I'd never want to live there, I enjoyed every detail of it from government policies to recreation requirements. The characters are wonderful. Eddie and his group of friends each are distinctly real and flawed persons. The entire cast of characters is enormous and entirely eccentric from the librarian Mrs. Lapus Lazuli who has memorized the barcode of every book that has been removed from the library to the Apocryphal man, a 400 year old historian who everyone must pretend does not exist. The plot itself is a slow unraveling of Eddie coming to terms with the hidden reality of his society and the unsettling realization that the few must be sacrificed for the many. The story is quite dark and while I haven't read any other Fforde books, from what I've read about the Thursday Next series, it would appear that this is a different move for the author. The themes and atmosphere are dark, there is a lot of satire making for plenty of humour but even the humour is dry and biting at times. There is so much going on within the pages of this book that I could simply go on and on about it. Suffice to say, I am utterly enamored with this world and its mythos and can't wait for the next book.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Contest: And the Winner Is ....

And the winner has been randomly selected for Howard S. Smith's I, robot. Congratulations to ......... Book Dragon ! If Book Dragon had a robot with AI here's the one thing she'd like it to do for her at home:

"I would want a robot that did dishes. Dusting. Wait, can the robot to all the household chores I hate to do? ;-)"

I think chores would count as one thing as lots of people answered housework. In fact, every answer was a variation on the theme! Some people were a little more specific naming laundry, grocery shopping and washing dishes.

Now I know why there are so many infomercials for household cleaning gadgets! The industry must be a goldmine.

Congratulations, Book Dragon. I'll be dropping you an email shortly.

If you didn't win today, there is always another chance so stay tuned for another giveaway where I've got great book up for grabs!

Friday, January 22, 2010

11. Graphic Classics: Special Edition

Graphic Classics: Special Editionn edited by Tom Pomplun
Graphic Classics series

Pages: 64
Ages: 13+
Finished: Jan. 21, 2010
First Published: 2008
Genre: graphic novel, short stories
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Tomorrow I die at the gallows, today I unburden my soul.

Acquired: This book was offered during Free Comic Book Day 2009, and already being a fan I was thrilled to pick it up. It is available for purchase on the website.

Reason for Reading: Fan of the series, trying to eventually read my way through them all.

Comments: This is a smaller comic book edition compared to the regular book quality volumes. Described on the back as "A Classics Sampler", it contains five new short stories to illustrate the type of material that can be found in the series as a whole. I enjoyed four of the five stories very much. The fifth, an adaptation of Ambrose Bierce was only one page long and I didn't get the joke. The book opens with Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat" which has been fabulously illustrated by Gerry Alanguilan. I've never really been partial to this story as the animal cruelty makes me quite uneasy and the artist has definitely caught the mood and madness resulting in a disturbing adaption that would have made Poe proud. Arthur Conan Doyle is represented with one of this non-Holmes stories, "John Barrington Cowles" which deals with the supernatural. My favourite story in the book is Mary Shelly's "The Dream", a love story with miraculous religious intervention. I hadn't ever read anything by Shelley besides Frankenstein so found this quite interesting. The artwork by Anne Timmons is gorgeously detailed. The book then ends with a farce about a wizard by Lord Dunsany which was fun but I'm not fond of Milton Knight's cartoon style illustration. If you are collecting this series, this book is one you should not miss adding to the collection.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Marvel Adventures Superheroes: Nova

Marvel Adventures Superheroes Featuring Nova by Paul Tobin. Illustrated by Ig Guara
Issue 18, February 2010

This is my son's and I read it last night as I didn't have anything else to post today. This comic is an All Ages, safe for kids title with an old-style feel to it. There is a group of Super Heroes working together: Captain America, Invisible Woman, Iron Man, The Vision and Thor. The only one I'm not familiar with is The Vision. A teenage Nova and his friends go to investigate a town that rumours say has gone mad but when they get there they find no such thing until they are attacked by a spriggan, a mischievous creature who likes to steal things and they say is the ghost of Old Giants. While looking around an old woman folklore expert's abandoned house the above super heroes arrive on the scene. Eventually Black Widow joins the scene and a battle with the spriggan becomes almost impossible to win as it can make all their superpowers malfunction. In the end both Nova and Black Widow are invited to join the super heroes and they decide to call themselves The Avengers.

I really enjoyed the old-style comic and story line plus the kid safe illustrations and text. An interesting story, with great camaraderie and joking/teasing between the team members with an added fun surprise ending. The book ends with this being a complete story in one issue and I'd definitely read more issues. (4/5)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

10. The Jungle Vampire by David Sinden

The Jungle Vampire by David Sinden, Mattew Morgan & Guy Macdonald; illustrated by Jonny Duddle (Canada) - (US)
An Awfully Beastly Business, Book 4

Pages: 204
Ages: 8+
Finished: Jan. 19, 2010
First Published: Dec. 29, 2009
Genre: children, fantasy
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Late one night, on the outskirts of a grimy town, a man in a long fur coat hurried through the rain.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Reason for Reading: My son loves this series and this was the next one out. I read it aloud to him.

Summary: All the members of the RSPCB are off to the jungle and this time Ulf is invited along as he is in training to become an official member and his mission takes him in search of a legendary vampire. Unbeknownst to all, Baron Marackai is after the same treasure only he wants to kill the fabled beast and he is following them to take advantage of their smarts on finding this creature's den.

Comments: Everything one has come to expect from this series is present in this latest addition. The authors keep the story fresh even though Baron Marackai is after Ulf and his friends in every book, Sinden, et al. find different ways of bringing the two parties together and we've come to enjoy waiting for that moment that the RSPCB finds out that Baron Marackai is behind their troubles. This particular book is an action packed story. Briefly starting at home they are off to the jungle very quickly, where they meet adventure after adventure. The whole team is included equally this time around with Ulf, Tiana, Orson and Dr. Fielding all sharing equal page time. Once the Baron reveals himself the pace is very quick and the exciting adventure turns into a wild race to the end. The only thing we missed was since the whole book took place away from Farraway Hall, our favourite character, Druce the gargoyle, only made a cameo appearance at the beginning and the end.

Lots of laughs were had by both of us and we are sad to have come to the last book in print to date. My son says he'd like to start from the beginning and read them all over again so maybe I'll pass them on Dad, for bedtime reading. After doing a bit of research I see book 5 "Battle of the Zombies" will be released in June of this year (2010) in the UK, so according to the schedule that's been established so far, I think we can expect it out here in North America in December. We will anxiously be waiting!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

9. Graphic Classics: Louisa May Alcott

Graphic Classics: Louisa May Alcott edited by Tom Pomplun (Canada) - (US)
Graphic Classics, Vol. 18

Pages: 144
Ages: 13+
Finished: Jan. 18, 2010
First Published: Nov. 2009
Genre: graphic novel, short stories
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

It's so dreadful to be poor.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher.

Reason for Reading: I love this series and will eventually read them all.

Comments: I'll start with my immediate response to finishing this volume, "Fantastic!". This is the second full colour offering in the Graphic Classics series and it is a beautiful book. The artwork is absolutely stunning and each artist has worked in a style and palette perfectly suited for each individual story. Usually, in these collection there will be at least one illustrator's rendition I'm not too fond of but I loved them all. The book includes 2 poems, an adaptation of the novel Little Women and 5 short stories. It's been ages since I've read Little Women and, of course, this is a quick run through of the story but the essence of the story is there; the individual personalities of the girls shine through and this graphic adaption pays homage to the novel well, especially with the wonderful artwork by Anne Timmons.

The highlight of this volume, though, is the short stories. I have not read any of Louisa May Alcott's stories before and was wondrously surprised at this ghastly Gothic collection. Four of them are fabulous 19th century sensationalist stories full of corpses, murder and madness while the other is a strange, yet delightful, morality tale for children. My favourite story out of the whole book was the last one, A Whisper in the Dark, which at a full 41 pages is a perfect example of the era's Gothic story with romance, long dark corridors, strange noises in the night and madness, all wonderfully illustrated by Arnold Arre using a palette mostly of browns, going to greys and black to suit the mood.

Yet another fine volume in the series and a must read for fans of the series or Louisa May Alcott.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday: Books in the Mail

Last Monday you may have thought I missed this weekly post but I didn't; I just didn't get any books in the mail that week so didn't bother posting. However, last week saw the Mailbox smiling happily as it was filled almost daily with lovely little padded envelopes. Here's what came:

For a Hachette Book Tour. I'll be reading this right away! But sorry, the review won't be coming for a while:

FBI Special Agent Brad Raines is facing his toughest case yet. A Denver serial killer has killed four beautiful young women, leaving a bridal veil at each crime scene, and he's picking up his pace. Unable to crack the case, Raines appeals for help from a most unusual source: residents of the Center for Wellbeing and Intelligence, a private psychiatric institution for mentally ill individuals whose are extraordinarily gifted.

It's there that he meets Paradise, a young woman who witnessed her father murder her family and barely escaped his hand. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, Paradise may also have an extrasensory gift: the ability to experience the final moments of a person's life when she touches the dead body.

In a desperate attempt to find the killer,Raines enlists Paradise's help. In an effort to win her trust, he befriends this strange young woman and begins to see in her qualities that most 'sane people' sorely lack. Gradually, he starts to question whether sanity resides outside the hospital walls...or inside.

As the serial killer picks up the pace and volume of his gruesome killings, the case becomes even more personal to Raines when his friend and colleague, a beautiful young forensic psychologist, becomes the Bride Collector's fourth target. And she isn't the last by far. (US) - (Canada)

From LibraryThing Early Reviewers:

Orphan Ellinor Arden is called from her secluded Paris home to London for the hearing of a will. To her surprise, she is named as the inheritor of her estranged uncle's fortune, on condition that she marry his adopted son.

Encouraged by her lawyer and guardian, the dashing Horace Margrave, she enters into wedded life with this perfect stranger, but it soon becomes clear that her trust in a dead man's wishes has been misplaced.

Suspense-ridden sensation fiction from a master of the art, The Lawyer's Secret and the counterpart piece presented here, 'The Mystery at Fernwood', represent gripping Victorian literature at its best. (US) - (Canada)

From the book's publicist:

The past Janeal thought had burned away is rising from the ashes.

Years ago, the Gypsy Kumpania where Janeal Mikkado lived was attacked by outsiders. With her best friend about to be consumed by a fire, Janeal had two options: try to save her friend--at serious risk to her own life--or disappear with the million dollars that she had just discovered . . .

But the past is quickly coming back to haunt her. Both the best friend and the boyfriend that she was sure were dead have reappeared in her life, as has someone who knows about the money. There's a debt to be paid for the money she found, but there's an even greater debt she must face--and if the chaff isn't burned from her own heart, it will consume her. (US) - (Canada)

From the book's publicist:

Readers of Patrick Taylor’s books know Mrs. Kinky Kincaid as the unflappable housekeeper who looks after two frequently frazzled doctors in the colourful Irish village of Ballybucklebo. She is a trusted fixture in the lives of those around her, and it often seems as though Kinky has always been there.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Some forty-odd years before and many miles to the south, the girl who would someday be Kinky Kincaid was Maureen O’Hanlon, a farmer’s daughter growing up in the emerald hills and glens of County Cork. A precocious girl on the cusp of womanhood, Maureen has a head full of dreams, a heart open to romance, and something more: a gift for seeing beyond the ordinary into the mystic realm of fairies, spirits, and even the dreaded Banshee, whose terrifying wail she first hears on a snowy night in 1922. . . .

As she grows into a young woman, Maureen finds herself torn between love and her fondest aspirations, for the future is a mystery even for one blessed with the sight. Encountering both joy and sorrow, Maureen at last finds herself on the road to Ballybucklebo---and the strong and compassionate woman she was always destined to become.

An Irish Country Girl is another captivating tale by Patrick Taylor, a true Irish storyteller. (US) - (Canada)

I'm not sure how I ended up with this one, but it sounds great!:

Ludelphia Bennett may be blind in one eye, but she can still put in a good stitch. Ludelphia sews all the time, especially when things go wrong.

But when Mama goes into labor early and gets deathly ill, it seems like even quilting won’t help. That’s when Ludelphia decides to do something drastic—leave Gee’s Bend for the very first time. Mama needs medicine that can only be found miles away in Camden. But that doesn’t stop Ludelphia. She just puts one foot in front of the other.

What ensues is a wonderful, riveting and sometimes dangerous adventure. Ludelphia weathers each challenge in a way that would make her mother proud, and ends up saving the day for her entire town.

Set in 1932 and inspired by the rich quilting history of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, Leaving Gee’s Bend is a delightful, satisfying story of a young girl facing a brave new world. (US) - (Canada)

8. The King's Legacy by Jim Stovall

The King's Legacy: A Story of Wisdom for the Ages (orig. title: Wisdom of the Ages) by Jim Stovall; illustrated by Connie Gabbert (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 156
Ages: all ages
Finished: Jan. 16, 2010
First Published: 2003, updated edition 2009
Genre: Inspirational, fairy tale
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:
Once upon a time, there was an enchanted kingdom in a land far, far away.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the book's publicist.

Reason for Reading: The fairy tale nature of the story caught my attention.

Summary: The king is getting older and wants to leave something behind for the people in ages to come to remember him by. Various items are suggested: a building, a statue, a coin then his eldest wise man suggests he proclaim the wisdom for all ages. After several nights of consideration, the king chooses wisdom but he doesn't know what the wisdom of all ages is so he asks his wise men to tell him. Well they take a few nights and days then the king calls them and is rather perturbed when his wise men admit even they cannot agree on what the wisdom for all ages is. So the king decides to take it to the people and every day forth his court listens to a citizen impart the wisdom he has to share while the king takes it all in trying to find what is the single greatest wisdom of the ages. "Little does he know that the profound answer will come from the most unexpected and unassuming of places."

Comments: This is an inspirational book. Each chapter has a different towns person from physicians and judges to farmers and labourers describing the wisdom they have learnt through living their own life, working their own job. Each one leaves the reader with a truth and something to ponder. While each chapter does focus on the towns person's speech, there is room enough at the beginning of each to keep the storyline of the king and his court going forward. The king himself turns out to be much more wise than those surrounding him and the reader feels secure the king is capable of making this big decision.

The book's promotional material promotes the book for all readers and a quick glance at the book with the simple illustrations and page decorations mistakenly make the book look like a children's book. It is not a kid's book; I'm more apt to say it is an adult book that can also be enjoyed by children. Older children can read it themselves but younger ones will want to have it read to them, even if they can manage the reading level, as some of the chapters' messages are a bit deep and would benefit from discussion. I also see this as a nice gift book for a reflective type of person who likes to read inspirational, meditative material.

The King's Legacy is published by a Christian publisher but it does not contain any religious material whatsoever. It simply presents Christian themes which are relevant to all of humanity, no matter what creed, such as honesty, work ethic, good health, collective knowledge, service to others, etc.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

7. Fallen by Lauren Kate

Fallen by Lauren Kate (Canada) - (US)
Fallen series, Book 1

Pages: 452
Ages: 13+
Finished: Jan. 16, 2010
First Published: Dec. 8, 2009
Genre: paranormal romance
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Around midnight, her eyes at last took shape.

This review contains one obvious spoiler. If you intend to read this book and know absolutely nothing about it don't continue but if you do know a bit about it, my one little spoiler is obvious even from the title of the book.

Acquired: Received an ARC from the publisher through Shelf Awareness.

Reason for Reading: I love stories about angels.

Summary: Lucinda is sent to a reform school because of a terrible incident in which she was involved and her date was killed. Lucinda isn't exactly a regular girl though; ever since she was little she has seen dark shadows that interact with her and scare her. She quickly learned as a child that she was the only one who saw them and has kept them secret but Lucinda wonders whether the shadows may have been responsible for her date's death. Once she arrives at the school she immediately finds herself drawn to the darkly handsome Daniel. While he is attractive it's not that which initially draws her to him, she feels as if they've met before, she has quirky deja vu moments when she's with him. At first Daniel is aloof, downright rude even, but her persistence in following her feelings for him draws them together but Daniel is hiding a secret from her, something immense that will forever change her world.

Comments: I really enjoyed this book. Daniel and Lucinda are both enjoyable characters and their relationship makes a great romance. I'm the type of person who rolls my eyes through all the romance parts of these type of books but the author handles this aspect very well. The romance comes up in short paragraphs here and there and while Lucinda daydreams for a sentence or two, there is thankfully *no* over the top yearning drivel. I appreciate seeing a teen romance written at this level of quality.

My main problem with the story is that there is a prologue in which the reader is basically given the mystery surrounding Daniel and Lucinda's life. If you haven't guessed from the title, hints are frequently dropped and it doesn't take much to realize that (here's my little spoiler) Daniel is an angel. The reader is given more information than Lucinda and it does make her seem to be a bit of a dope that it takes her practically the whole book to figure out this "secret" along with the mystery the reader already knows from the prologue. However, there are other side stories and surprises left to be revealed that leave the story with an exciting plot.

I loved the angel mythos the author has worked into this book. It is fascinating and a very intriguing plotline. Much of her world is based on Biblical angelology, though Ms Kate has taken the more fantastical interpretations to run with and added her own spin on things as well. The pace of the book was a bit weak in parts with the excitements ebbing and flowing until the final rush towards a very exciting climax. Being book one in a series, the book does have a complete plot which is concluded, yet ends with the stage set for the next book.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

6. Fables: Sons of Empire

Sons of Empire by Bill Willingham (Canada) - (US)
Fables, Volume 9

Pages: 200
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jan. 15, 2010
First Published: 2007
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

That summer there was a great fire in the restricted hills, northwest of the Imperial City.

Acquired: Through Interlibrary Loan.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Summary: Starts of with four issues of the title story where the Adversary has a meeting to describe possible attacks on the Mundy world. Switches are made to Fabletown and the Farm where new plotlines are forming. Each issue ends with a short 3-4 page story of someone outside of Fabletown that we either have never met before or don't know much of. Then we have a Christmas Issue spent on the Farm and with the Wolf family, this starts with a quick flashback to 1956, where we see enjoy a scene with our long banished Fableton, Jack. Then onto a two issue story where Bigby and family go visit his father. The story is called "Father and Son" and has meaning in several different ways than the obvious one. And finally the book ends with a fun issue called "Burning Questions" where short stories are presented to answer readers questions about things that have never been explained so far, such as " What is Frau Totenkinder knitting?"

Comments: This is a great volume. Nice and thick with lots of action and forward motion of the plotline as well as some plain fun. All sorts of new characters are introduced on the Homelands side, some of whom are obviously going to be big players from now on. Also throughout this whole volume a lot of familiar faces show up, some we haven't seen for a long time. I'm left with a feeling that something new is about to happen in the next volume and am quite eager to continue on. I can't believe I'm getting so close to catching up with this series!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dr. Horrible (comic)

Dr. Horrible by Zack Whedon. Illustrated by Joelle Jones
Issue 1, November 2009

This is what they call a "one shot" meaning it is a one issue story, but as any other Dr. Horrible fan knows we will take any further story development we can get until that pie-in-the-sky day when the sequel, apparently in the works, comes out for us to watch over and over. I don't normally go into comic book stores, preferring to buy/read compilation tpb's, but my eldest son picked this up for me and gave it to me as a Christmas gift. He chose this cover (of the three available) because it depicts one of absolute my favourite songs, "Brand New Day".

The comic is fun for fans, nothing spectacular, but fun and I'm so glad I have it. Without giving away much I'll say the story starts with a quick flashback to Billy's childhood with an incident which may have planted the seeds of becoming a super villain in his mind. Then jumps to the present time, which takes place prior to the events of the "Sing-Along Blog". Here Dr. Horrible and Captain Hammer meet for the first time and eventually have their first Headline making showdown. Moist gets a lot of page time as he is pretty much Dr. Horrible's sidekick and Penny makes an appearance when Billy is doing his laundry. If you look carefully you'll even see the Captain Hammer groupies making an appearance. Lots of fun! The story is not all that it might have been, but the artwork is great and it's just plain fun for a Dr. Horrible addict to read about these great characters. (3.5/5)

Monday, January 11, 2010

5. Innocent War by Susan Violante

Innocent War by Susan Violante (Canada) - (US)
Nino Series No. 1

Pages: 183
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jan. 10, 2010
First Published: Apr. 17, 2009
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

"Nino, wake up! You're going to be late," hollered Papa from the hallway outside of my room.

Acquired: I received a review copy from the book's publicist.

Reason for Reading: The plot and point of view intrigued me.

Summary: The author received five cassette tapes from her father recording his life story and she has started to turn them into a fictionalized biography of her father's life with this first volume covering young Nino's life from age 10 to 15, years 1940 to 1945. Nino is born in Italy but soon moves with his family to Tripoli in the Italian Colony of Libya. His father is a construction worker and the Italians in the Colony are indoctrinated by Mussolini via the radio and propaganda, children must attend weekly youth meetings. But these people are far removed from Europe, they have no proper understanding of the war, nor how it affects them until the day the radio announces that Italy is at war with France and Britain and simultaneously the town of Tripoli is attacked by French bombers, leaving dead, injured and rubble behind them. This then is the story of an Italian family living in Libya trying to survive in the war torn country told through the eyes of a child.

Comments: Before commenting on the story I must quickly say this first. The book is self-published (not necessarily a bad thing) but really needs editing. There are some typos, many awkward sentences and quite a number of grammatical errors, such as the one that annoyed me the most: the use of the word "on" instead of "in" throughout the book and quite often the reverse as well. 'Nuff said.

The story itself was delightful. Nino and his mother Maria are wonderful, full characters with many layers. This is a very unusual point of view for a World War II story and I really appreciated experiencing it, especially knowing that it is based on fact. The Italians in Libya have no idea why they are suddenly being bombed, then the Italian and Nazi soldiers arrive. The Nazi's immediately intimidate the people and Nino and his family watch in horror as Sarah, their Jewish babysitter's, family is taken away in the night. Having made a prior promise to the mother, Sarah has become their cousin, Rita, from Naples as they keep her in their house. Told through a child's eyes we see the horror, the hardships, the death of war but as a child we also see the adventures a boy can have, the escapades and ideas he comes up with that sometimes benefit the family and sometimes get him in trouble. He is an innocent child living the life he has been given and yet this is also a coming of age story as the boy becomes a man and can discern the truth behind what he sees. As a little boy he sees the Italian soldiers as heroes but when he sees up close and personal on a train how a soldier abuses a man, Nino knows he never wants to be a soldier.

A delightful read which can be harrowing and humourous, heart-wrenching and heart-warming.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

4. The Diary of Sophia Macnab

The Diary of Sophia Macnab written at Dundurn Castle, Hamilton, 1846, Age 13 (Canada) - (US)
Edited by Charles Ambrose Carter & Thomas Melville Bailey
Foreword by The Earl of Albemarle, M.C.
Illustrated by Alice Daisy Holland, Age 13, 1904

Pages: 72
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jan. 9, 2010
First Published: 1968, W.L. Griffin, Limited (revised 2nd edition 1974)
Genre: nonfiction, diary
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

Tuesday Janry 20th 1846 --
....Mamma told me to note down what we were all about on the 4th of January 1846 --- We were all standing round dear Mammas bed talking to her about her being so sick.

Acquired: I bought and own this copy.

Reason for Reading: I enjoy reading memoirs and diaries, plus this is local history for me and I've visited Dundurn Castle many times.

Comments: Sophia Macnab (pronounced with a long i) was the daughter of Sir Allan Napier Macnab, a politician who eventually became Prime Minister of Canada West in the days before Canada became a Dominion. Macnab had his home built in an Italian Regency villa style which was one of the finest estates in the province. Named Dundurn, it was nicknamed Castle by the locals, has been fully restored and is a popular tourist attraction where guided tours are given year round.

Sophia's diary details her daily day to day life which was spent mostly at home with occasional visits to neighbours or nearby relations, though more often than not they were the ones who were visited. 1846 was the year that Sophia's mother died from an unknown lung ailment and for 3/4s of the diary Sophia lovingly reports on "Dearest Mamma's" health. A day in the life of young Miss Macnab would usually include lessons with the tutor, sitting with Mamma, sewing, lessons with the music teacher, learning her catechism and in the evenings depending on Mamma's health gathering around her bed with her sisters and aunt or taking turns with them sitting while otherwise occupying herself sewing or writing in the diary.

While her daily life may sound drab and dull even Sophia says at one point that she shall not tell the same things over and over any more but simply put down she followed the usual "rutine", it is an amazing look into the daily workings of an affluent family in Southern Ontario. The Macnabs were a very religious family and quite unusually were able to pleasantly bring the children up in two religions at the same time. Lady Macnab was a devout Catholic, while Sir Allan was Anglican. The children went to church regularly receiving their Catholic Sacraments, but were quite at home in an Anglican church as well as also studying at home and listening to sermons when Sir Allen was at home.

Two things struck me as quite interesting. One being the amount of illness, of course Dearest Mamma's illness is continuously on Sophia's mind, but almost every other page some other member of the family is ill or it is mentioned that so-and-so they know is sick. And when a person was ill, someone must always sit with them. Ague seemed to be quite common sending people to bed all the time. Of course I had to look that up and found it to mean either a fever or a chill. The other thing I found interesting was that Sophia never, ever mentions the household servants. I've been in the kitchens and servant's floor and this house must have had quite a lot of servants about. Sophia does on occasion mention rushing to the kitchen to get something but mentions no people. Was she exposed to the servants so seldom that she barely thought of them or was she so used to them that they barely seemed like people to her, just part of the background?

I love reading this type of diary as one can get such an intimate look inside the social history of the time period, really see how people lived and thought. Plus the little innocent details tell us so much such as the era's medical practices, dietary standards, hygiene, turns of phrase, social decorum, and so much more. There are quite a few eye openers here such as Mamma's prescribed diet of oysters and four eggs a day, the inhalation of ether whenever you felt unwell, and Mamma's insistence that Sophia promise she will never dance the waltz.

Recommended for those interested in the local history, those who visit Dundurn Castle and anyone who enjoys reading children's diaries of long ago.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I'm Featured Today!

I'm featured today on the Cybils blog.

It's fun to see your name pop up when you're going through your blog reader! Go take a peep.

Today's Post on the Cybils Award Blog: featuring Moi

Friday, January 8, 2010

Contest: I, robot (No, not that one)

Welcome back to my bi-weekly contests!

This time I am giving away an ARC of a book with a very familliar title but if you look closely there is a slight difference to the one you are thinking of. This is an ARC in wonderful condition called I, robot by Howard S. Smith. I personally only read a few chapters of the book as I found it to be too much sci-fi and military for my tastes. But don't just listen to me! It has an average rating of 4 stars on amazon!

Contest will run until Jan. 22, with the winner randomly chosen and announced on Jan. 23. This contest is open to US and Canada only. Sorry, but International postage is too expensive for me.

To enter:

Please try to leave all your responses in one comment.

1) You must be a follower (over in the right bar) and let me know you are in your comment.

2) Leave your email address (if it is not already in your profile.)

3) +2 Tweet or blog (no sidebars) about this contest and leave me the link.

4) +1 If you were given a robot for your home with artificial intelligence what one function would you want it to perform for you or your family?

Here is the publisher's summary:

North Korea has once more started up its nuclear program. A nuclear-tipped missile launches south of Pyongyang, flies over Tokyo and explodes in a mushroom-cloud firestorm offshore. Police Inspector Haruto Suzuki investigates the death of a "westerner." Clues lead him to Mikiyasu Industries - a conglomerate producing Japan's most advanced industrial robots. Terrorist rockets from Lebanon continue to rain down on Israel. The rigid, by-the-rules-only Inspector Suzuki is thrown from his murder investigation into an arms deal that will change the face of the earth, and for the first time in his life, into love and happiness. Will the love one man has for a woman save our world or destroy it?

3. The Flying Troutmans

The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 274
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jan. 7, 2010
First Published: Oct. 1 2008
Genre: literary fiction, realistic fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

Yeah, so things have fallen apart.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: The publisher's plot synopsis grabbed me right away.

Summary: Hattie in Paris, who has just been dumped by her boyfriend, receives an urgent message from her niece in Manitoba to come home quickly. Hattie's sister Min is in a deep depression and needs to go into the hospital again and when Hattie arrives she finds the kids in a state. Teenage Logan retreats into his hoodie all the time, rarely speaks and the neighbors have a backyard full of hatchets. Thebes, on the other hand, does not stop talking, ever, and looks as if she hasn't changed clothes in a few weeks nor combed, let alone washed her hair in months. Hattie is totally not up to the job of looking after two children so she takes the children in the van on a road trip to the States to find their father whom Min chased out of their lives when Logan was a toddler and Thebes newly born. With only the name of a place of where he was ten years ago they set off.

Comments: What a wonderful, brilliant book! A humourous, heart-felt, sometimes poignant story of a family of the most quirky characters. This family is dysfunctional as a unit and each member is suffering their own mental health problems but they are also lovable, unique and become accepted to the reader just the way they are. The only character I didn't connect with nor grow to like was Hattie, who was quite negligent with looking after the children and as a 32yo woman had no excuse for her behaviour except that she daydreamed about her ex-boyfriend back in Paris and hadn't looked after children before. I didn't buy it. However, the children and Min (who we get to know through Hattie's memories) were extremely outlandish yet totally believable characters.

A great story that will have you chuckling, shaking your head and growing fonder of these two children the more you read. I really enjoyed this, my first foray into Toews, and I will be looking into her other work hoping to find the same quality of story. The book vaguely reminded me of the movie "Little Miss Sunshine" and I pictured Logan just as the teenage son in that movie. If you enjoy an offbeat story populated with eccentric characters this book will certainly fit the bill.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

2. Irredeemable by Mark Waid

Irredeemable by Mark Waid (Canada) - (US)
Afterward by Grant Morrison
Volume 1

Pages: 128
Ages: 15+
Finished: Jan. 6, 2010
First Published: Oct. 2009
Genre: Graphic Novel, Superhero
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:


Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: The publisher's plot synopsis grabbed me right away.

Comments: One day The Plutonium, a very powerful superhero turns evil and becomes the world's greatest super villain. He belonged to a group of superheroes, yet none of them came close to Plutonium's powers. Now The Plutonium is hunting them all down and killing them and their alter ego families. He has destroyed cities and is a heartless, ruthless killer. The story focuses on his remaining teammates as they try to piece together information about the man inside the costume, what made him turn, and how can they stop him, all while staying on the run as he tries to hunt them down.

This is a stunning story! It opens with a shocking sequence and the action never lets up. There are many layers to the story and this is truly a study in character. The Plutonium is presented as ultimate evil but as the reminiscences of the past Plutonium are brought forward we see the powerful superhero proud and good. We also see the little things and some larger things that happen in his life that aren't so nice, things that can build up and lay heavy on a guy. The old superhero Plutonium becomes a character the reader can relate to and feel for and yet it is gut-wrenchingly unsettling to see the atrocities he is now capable of.

The book does contain a lot of violence, not the blood and gore type but more along the disturbing death kind. The book is definitely not for the young or the squeamish. Since I'm neither I'm eagerly awaiting Vol. 2 which will be out this Spring.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

ARC Reading Challenge

OK, so after some deliberating I've decided to join Teddy's ARC Reading Challenge. I participated last year and I'm obviously going to be reading ARCs this year as well so I thought I'd join the fun. I already posted a complete list of arcs I have on hand that follows the rules of the challenge and you can take a look at it here. I will be adding links as I review the books and will keep adding review books as they come in. I will also keep a running total over in the sidebar on the right as I plan on joining the Gold level of 25 books.

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 Master Challenge List

My plans for the new year are pretty simple: read arcs, work on series that I've started, do not start any new series unless they are graphic novels, do not start any new authors, and only join challenges that include books I will already be reading.

I'm currently involved in these perpetual challenges or projects:

Chronological Stephen King - This is my own personal project and I got stuck at The Stand. It's just such a huge book (I'm reading the revised 1500 pg edition) that every time I looked at it I just thought how many other books I could read in the same time. I vowed to read it in 2009 (didn't happen) so I'm trying again and will vow to read this book in 2010 and hopefully continue on with this project. I have read the first 5 books so far and will start again this year with The Stand.

1. Carrie
2. 'Salem's Lot
3. Rage
4. The Shining
5. Night Shift

Newbery Challenge (ongoing) - I intend on continuing this never-ending quest to read all the Newbery winners.
see progress here

A-Z Challenge - link
fit in books as I read them

Geographical Project - link
fit in books as they are read


Graphic Novel Challenge (Jan-Dec 2010 Expert 10+books)
1. Irredeemable by Mark Waid
2. Fables: Sons of Empire by Bill Willingham
3. Graphic Classics: Louisa May Alcott edited by Tom Pomplun
4. Graphic Classics: Special Edition edited by Tom Pomplun
5. Calamity Jack by Shannon & Dean Hale
6. Angel: After the Fall by Joss Whedon & Brian Lynch
7. Fables: The Good Prince by Bill Willingham
8. Angel: After the Fall: First Night by Joss Whedon & Brian Lynch
9. Copper by Kazu Kibuishi
10. Children of the Sea, Vol. 2 by Daisuke Igarashi

2010 ARC Reading Challenge (Jan-Dec 2010 Gold 25+ books)
1. The Levee by Malcolm Shuman
2. Irredeemable Vol. 1by Mark Waid
3. The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews
4. Innocent War by Susan Violante
5. Fallen by Lauren Kate
6. The King's Legacy by Jim Stovall
7. Graphic Classics: Louisa May Alcott edited by Tom Pomplun
8. The Jungle Vampire by David Sinden
9. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
10. The Silver Anklet by Mahtab Narsimhan
11. Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham
12. Calamity Jack by Shannon & Dean Hale
13. Burn by Ted Dekker & Erin Healy
14. The Dragon Book edited by Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois
15. Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker
16. Defenders of the Scroll by Shiraz
17. Gone by Lisa McMann
18. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
19. My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete
20. An Irish Country Girl by Patrick Taylor
21. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
22. A Kid for Two Farthings by Wolf Mankowitz
23. A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
24. Copper by Kazu Kabuishi
25. Children of the Sea, Vol. 2 by Daisuke Igarashi

Random Reading Challenge (Aug. 1 2009 - Jul. 31 2010) (12 books)
1. The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl (Aug)
2. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (Sept)
3. Testimony by Anita Shreve (Oct.)
4. Another Faust by Daniel & Dina Nayeri (Nov.)
5. BoneMan's Daughter by Ted Dekker (Dec.)
6. Innocent War by Susan Violante (Jan.)
7. Defenders of the Scroll by Shiraz (Feb.)
8. Going Bovine by Libba Bray (Mar.)
9. The Texicans by Nina Vida (Apr.)
10. Meridian by Amber Kizer (May)
11. Claim to Fame by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Jun.)
12. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (Jul.)

Canadian Book Challenge (Jul.1, 2010 - Jun. 30, 2011) (13 books) FINISHED
1. An Incredible Case of Dinosaurs by Kenneth Oppel
2. A Weird Case of Super-Goo by Kenneth Oppel
3. A Creepy Case of Vampires by Kenneth Oppel
4. Terry Fox: A Story of Hope by Maxine Trottier
5. Neil Young's Greendale by Joshua Dysart
6. Wilfred Grenfell: Adventurer to the North by Vernon Howard
7. The Secret Fiend by Shane Peacock
8. Lukey Paul from Labrador by Adelaide Leitch
9. Death on the River by John Wilson
x. The Wright Brothers: A Flying Start by Elizabeth MacLeod
10. The Dark Deeps by Arthur Slade
11. Brain Camp by Susan Kim. Illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks
12. Hudson by Janice Weaver
13. The Body in the Tower by Y.S. Lee

RIP V (Sept. 1 - Oct. 31) (4 books) FINISHED
1. City of Snakes by Darren Shan
2. The Thin Executioner by Darren Shan
3. The Dark Deeps by Arthur Slade
4. The Agency: The Body in the Tower by Y. S. Lee

Middle Grade Book Challenge (Sept. 2010 - Aug. 2011) (12 books)
1. Hudson by Janice Weaver
2. All Aboard! Elijah McCoy's Steam Engine by Monica Kulling
3. Ticket to Curlew by Celia Barker Lottridge
4. Brainstorm! The Stories of Twenty Amrican Kid Inventors by Tom Tucker
5. The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines by Jo Ann Yhard
6. Earthquake! A Story of Old San Francisco by Kathleen V. Kudlinski
7. In Flanders Fields: The Story of the Poem by John McCrae by Linda Granfield
8. An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo
9. The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen From the Future by Dave Pilkey
10. Amulet 3: The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi
11. Blimpo: The Third Circle of Heck by Dale E. Basye
12. Heart of Glass by Vivian French

Monday: Books in the Mail

Just one book in the mail last week. Kind of a bonus book, as my contact was clearing out her office of review copies before she went on holidays and I put my name in for this one since I just can't say no to a good mystery and I've been wanting to try this series for ages.

New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd brings back Scotland Yard detective Ian Rutledge in another riveting mystery set in post–World War I England Lancashire, England, June 1920. In a house with a red door lies the body of a woman who has been bludgeoned to death. Rumor has it that two years earlier, she'd painted that door to welcome her husband back from the Front. Only he never came home.

Meanwhile, in London, a man suffering from a mysterious illness first goes missing and then just as suddenly reappears. He is unable to explain his recovery. His family, supposedly searching for him, give conflicting accounts of where they were and why. What is the secret that nearly drove one man mad and turned his brothers and sister against one another with such unexpected savagery?

Inspector Ian Rutledge, drawn into both cases and facing a wall of silence, must solve two mysteries before he can bring a ruthless killer to justice: Who was the woman who lived and died behind the red door? Who was the man who never came home from the Great War, for the simple reason that he might never have gone? And what have they to do with a man who cannot break the seal of his own guilt without damning those he loves most?